Preparing Your Herb Garden


Be lazy and love it! You may call that my garden motto. There is a garden club called "Plant and Pray" and that name pretty well sums up my system. If a plant could sigh, it would do so when I put it in the ground. But, fortunately for me, herbs are the friendliest, the most adaptable of all plants. Most herbs love sun, but will grow in partial shade. Of course they need some sunshine to develop their fragrant oils, and if they get too little sun, their flavor will not be so good.

The herbs do not overly care either their soil is poor or rich. In fact, rich soil will produce large leaves, but relatively little fragrance and flavor. Without you want herbs for looks alone, do not use much fertilizer. Although a light loam is preferable, our own herbs must grow in clay. And they do. We have always garnered all the herbs we and our friends can use.

The actual planting of your herb garden is a simple matter. But when you have your herbs all gathered together in one small patch, or spread out over a large area, there are some basic planting procedures to follow.

Most seeds may be sown directly in the garden in spring. When planting seeds outdoors for new plants to bring in for the kitchen window, try to get them in the soil by midsummer. By fall the plants should be well established in the pots and boxes in which they are to grow during the winter, so that they will not have to undergo the shock of transplanting at the same time as the change from outdoor to indoor living. If your growing season is short, or if you wish to start using your herbs early in the summer, it is best to start some seeds in flats indoors even before the warm weather sets in. If you do not have the space or time for starting your own flats, you can usually buy seedlings or small plants from a nursery or seed company.

Preparing the Soil If you are starting your herb garden outdoors in the spring, here are some simple directions. First, plan where each variety is to go. Remember that the perennials must stay in their original positions for longer than a year. Arrange them so that they will not be disturbed, and so that the taller plants will not overshadow the smaller herbs. It is wise to plant the thick, heavy-leaved varieties requiring the least moisture-sage, thyme, winter savory, marjoram-in one part of the bed, and those which need more frequent watering in another. Good drainage is a special requirement of herbs.

Even those such as the mints, which love water, do not like to stand with their feet in a puddle. A gentle slope is the best place for your garden if the soil is not naturally porous. In Elizabethan times, many herb gardens were raised above ground level, with boards, rocks or other materials filled in with earth to make a raised bed The herb bed should be spaded to a depth of6tolO inches. Spade bone meal or lime in with some well-rotted manure, and pulverize the soil to the full depth. For the thymes, lavender, rosemary, and burnet, mix old, well-broken plaster into the soil. The mints, tarragon, lovage, and angelica will appreciate a fairly rich bed of loam and compost, although they, too, like a slightly alkaline soil.